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Methodology and sources

Methodology, sources and coverage

Methodology and Sources: We have used both national sources (trade statistics or statistical yearbooks) and international collections of trade data – most notably the United Kingdom (colonies) Statistical Yearbook and France (colonies) Statistical Yearbook, which report yearly data on total trade for all British and French colonies and many protectorates. In addition, we incorporate recent national estimates of trade series from the secondary literature, own estimates from statistics of main commercial partners, and as a last resort, neighbouring polities trade or population data. The complete methodology followed and sources for each polity estimate is available in:

The polity units revised recently in October 2017 can be found:

Time series coverage: In general terms, the data cover the period 1800-1938. However, only twelve export series begin in 1800, and three more in 1813, but then the number jumps to 34 in 1818, rises to 62 in 1823 and to 89 in 1830. The number of import series grows as well, but remains lower until 1850 (9 in 1800, 23 in 1823, and 50 in 1830). We ranked continents and policy units in alphabetical order according historical names at current borders. From 1850, the data-base, labelled ‘full sample’, includes almost all series for all polities (125 to 142), with few exceptions during World War One. 

Geographical coverage: the geographical units are not the countries but the trading polities. We define as “trading polity” any political entity which can register its own trade and is registered as a separate entry in the trade statistics of other polities, including colonies. The number of polities varies only as a consequence of changes in political boundaries. It ranges between 125 and 130 (out of about 160 listed ones) until 1918 and then jumps to around 140 (out of about 180) after the war.

File content: Continents include polity units Excel files ranked in alphabetical order according to current borders and historical names. Each Excel file has two spreadsheets, “Current prices”and “Constant prices,” each including export and import series at current borders and 1913 borders. 

Access use and privacy: the data will be reachable without restrictions under the terms of the license CC - BY.